Introduction: evidence-based medicine (EBM) requires clinicians to tackle p
atient management by making more systematic use of databases like MEDLINE a
nd using mow sophisticated search strategies, to optimise the retrieval elf
Aim: to collect empirical data on genuine requests for information and sear
Methods: collection of literature search requests for staff using computeri
sed biomedical databases at the libraries in district general hospitals, te
aching hospitals and a research unit; the 'intervention' of introducing a c
ommon structured form explicitly asking about the patient/intervention/outc
ome/comparison axis; comparison of the structured and unstructured forms fo
r completion of these four components; coding of the requests, using a modi
fied Scott Richardson classification.
Results: the structured form promotes the use off components from the EBM a
natomy and increases the total number of these in each search.
Conclusion: building prompts, like an EBM anatomy, into request forms impro
ves the precision of literature searching without impairing recall. For cli
nical problems, rather than educational environments, the Scott Richardson
classification needs modification.